Category Archives: math literacy

Literacy – it’s APPtastic!

Let’s say you’re a parent, or a teacher, or a tutor, and you find yourself in possession of an iPad, or 5, or 10, or 25… How can you use the device as a learning tool rather than a technologically savvy, highly entertaining babysitter?

I have been spending the last eighteen months answering this question. My school is an Apple Distinguished School – we are considered a model for other schools in the country (and world) for our 1:1 iPad use in the classroom.  Coming in to this technologically rich environment has been a blessing – albeit intimidating.  Luckily, I have my rock start mentor and an ever-growing PLN on twitter to guide my way. It probably took until Christmas last school year for me to adjust to and feel confident enough in my own skills/management of the devices to venture out and try projects. I jumped right in, with both feet, but it took some time to get comfortable and swim in the deep end of app-smashing, creation, and personalized learning.

Here is a list of my class’ favorite apps and how we use them:


Endless Alphabet teaches students letter sounds, spelling, and vocabulary within context.  They are able to learn new words in a fun way – with precious little monsters – and then transfer them to conversation or writing.  We were fortunate enough to catch this app when it was free.  Cost:  $5.99


Our district uses the Houghton Mifflin reading series Journeys.  With our adoption, we purchased access codes for the leveled readers.  The app itself is free and downloads a sampling of readers from levels A – Z.  We use the app during the reading center or Read to Self time.  The students like having voice and choice when choosing leveled books.  With the kindergarten access code, we receive books leveled A-F.  If a book is too difficult, there is a read to me option.  Students are able to hear fluently read text, reread a text from guided reading groups, or explore new books on their independent level.  Cost:  Free, but need access code


Grandpa’s Workshop was another great free find.  This app combines math with real world experiences in a woodworking shop.  I was actually quite surprised by the different skills combined within this app – beginning fractions (with guidance), counting, comparing/contrasting, and measuring.  Grandpa is encouraging and entertaining – he dances and students can give him a high five for a job well done.  Interspersed throughout are videos of real world projects where students learn about building projects and what is needed.  The carry over of knowledge from this app is great.  Many students write about Grandpa’s Workshop and use what they have learned in small group math lessons.  Cost:$1.99


There are several different magnetic letter apps available ranging from free to $8.99.  The differences in prices have to do more so with added shapes/stencils/backgrounds than with actual content.  Don’t get me wrong, the shapes, etc. are fun for creativity – but our main use for this app is word work activities.  In the beginning of the year, the students use this app to practice spelling their names, recognizing letters or numbers, and also letter sounds.  We use the app in small groups at least once a week.  As we move forward with our sight words, we use the app to practice spelling those as well.  Students can take a screen shot of what they have done and save it to their camera roll for later use.  Cost:  Free (for a lite version)


When our iPads were taken and wiped clean by the district, we knew that we absolutely had to have this app on our list of the first apps to be reloaded.  With Montessori Crosswords, students learn that words are made up of sounds and practice dragging sounds into boxes.  They then move on to spelling words with long vowels or blends.  As the difficulty increases, the students solve actual crosswords within the app.  To personalize for students, the settings can be adapted to particular sound categories for students to work on.  Cost:  $2.99


As with Montessori Crosswords, you get a lot of bang for your buck with Montessori Numbers.  Students can begin with basic number sense skills such as recognition and tracing.  As levels increase, the skills become more difficult ranging from algebraic reasoning to place value.  Students are able to customize difficulty for themselves, or it can be adjusted by the teacher.  Many students in my class are adept at increasing their own difficulty and challenging themselves – which is wonderful!  Cost: $2.99


I like Books combines 37 different emergent reader texts into one app.  You can download some of the individual books for free, but with this app they are kept all in one place.  Although the text is emergent, the content connects to the real world.  Students/parents/teachers can record the story in their own voice and then listen to it.  Each book is interactive – and you have the ability to customize the interactive features.    Images are professionally taken photographs – reinforcing a text feature of nonfiction books.  These books are wonderful for ESL learners as the text can be altered and recorded in any language.  Cost:$1.99 (for 37 books)


Number Pieces Basic is an app we are just now beginning to use regularly.  Students are able to manipulate numbers using base ten blocks.  They can write on the screen, break numbers apart, and solve number equations with multidigit numbers.  Screen shots can be taken to save work of a student.  The app is great to use for a quick assessment of place value.  Cost: Free


Pocket Charts Pro combines both reading/phonics and math skills.  The app has 20 different pocket charts to choose from.  Skills range from letter recognition to rhyming words, number recognition to adding/subtracting.  The app is wonderful for self guided practice.  I introduce the app in small groups and then they are free to choose which activity when in the app.  Cost:  $4.99


Phonics awareness provides a platform for students to practice working with words.  They can segment or blend words as well as practice syllables.  This app has a first grade edition as well.  A voice prompt guides the students through each activity.  Many students enjoy separating the bugs and chopping them apart!  There is also a carry over to small groups with the app, remediation or acceleration of skills.  Cost:  Free

These are some of our favorite apps for small groups and independent practice.  Check back again soon for a post all about our favorite creation apps!  Literacy — it’s APPtastic!

To keep up with free apps of the day, follow Technology in Education or My Hullabaloo on Facebook and Pinterest

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Filed under iPads, Literacy, math literacy, Technology

Food Scientists and #GRA13EC

Earlier, I mentioned the power of students having voice and choice in their learning.  My students’ voices led us to discovering maple syrup, where it comes from, and how it is made.  Being southerners, we do not know much about winter – let alone tapping trees for sap.  So, we went on a search for our own answers.  As we continued to explore fall, we learned about other trees and how they change with the seasons.

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One of our “go to” resources for questions we have is Brainpop Jr.  We absolutely LOVE Annie and Moby.  The videos are short, direct, and keep the students engaged.  My students already know that Annie and Moby can help us with most things.  We watched the video about seasons and then ordered changes that happen.



Our exploration of seasons and trees ended with our “experiment” involving maple syrup and regular pancake syrup.  We watched how maple syrup is made – from tree to bottle.  We connected our Global Read Aloud author, Eric Carle, with our activity as well by reading Pancake, Pancake.  Finally, we started put on our scientists thinking caps and got down to business.


Our experiment began with observations about the two kinds of syrup.  As the syrup was poured we noted the speed it flowed out of the bottle (fast or slow), the thickness of it (like water or glue), and the color (light brown or dark brown).  We poured the syrups into clear cups to make it easier to see.  Next was our taste test.  Each group of students had waffles to use as tools for tasting.  We made sure to only taste one kind at a time and we didn’t drink anything while tasting.  We tasted regular pancake syrup first.  Next, we tasted maple syrup.  Some of us were nervous, because we had never had it before.  Everyone was a brave scientist and tried a little! After tasting, we voted.

20131111-141110.jpgWe counted the votes and then compared the numbers.  In math we are talking about more/less and greater/fewer.  We knew that regular pancake syrup had the most votes because 11 is greater than 7.  Once the votes were counted, we finished our waffles.

All good scientists discuss their experiments when they are over.  Some questions we asked and answered were:

  • Why did you like regular pancake syrup better?
  • Why did you like maple syrup better?
  • Where did the maple syrup come from?
  • How was the maple syrup made?
  • Where do you think the regular pancake syrup came from?
  • How do you think the pancake syrup was made?

How can you be a scientist today?


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Filed under Global Read Aloud 2013, Literacy, math literacy, Read Alouds, Science

Monster Mash (Wa ooh)

This post has been awaiting final touches for a few days now.  It’s been pushed to the side for other things, but after reading other posts by colleagues – I knew it was time to polish it off and get it out there!  Some days, you just need a few minutes to breathe – even if you have great ideas to get out.

I was talking about my topic with my mentor today.  She includes app smashing in many of her posts –  including some of our monster unit.
“It could be called Monster Smash!”  Great minds think alike – and I’m continuously thankful I get to put my head together with hers often.

During our Monster unit last week, we mashed a lot more things together than apps.  We mashed literacies, intelligences, experiences, strengths, and technologies.  This unit is always very popular.  We lead up to it by learning about nonfiction texts and some real life “monsters” such as bats, owls, and spiders.  We compare and contrast fiction and nonfiction, real and make believe.  We read wonderful stories, create anchor charts, and illustrate a monster poem. We discuss the parts of a book, make connections, and form opinions.

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The first read aloud was the classic by Ed Emberley.  I borrowed an idea from a fellow K teacher to read the words and have students draw what they hear.  Many students recognized the book right away, but they continued to draw each part of the big green monster.  We used our iPads and the Drawing Pad app to create our monsters.  They then uploaded their monsters into Showbie and I created a class book using Book Creator.  Some students chose to draw their picture in Drawing Pad and then “smash” their picture into Pic Collage for typing about the monster.

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There was an Old Monster is a great text to connect with others.

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And Leonardo is just the best monster…

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Our math target standard also fit in perfectly with monsters – shapes and sorting.  Using the smartboard, we created monsters from pattern blocks.  We talked about the attributes of the shapes we used, the color they were, and how we could sort the shapes into groups.  Cookie Monster helped us practice patterns online with this game.


Little minds were so creative during this unit.  Writing time was joyful, even for my most reluctant writers.  We wrote about monster lives, monster food, monster homes – pretty much anything monster.  To end our unit, we included some of our writing with a handmade monster.  Scissor skills are difficult for little hands.  The idea of cutting without lines excited some and intimidated others.  It was rewarding to watch them sigh with relief when hearing there was “no right way” to make their monster (a little sad too…).

20131031-082855.jpgMy monster eats poopy diapers.

20131031-082901.jpgMy monster eats fruit.

20131031-082908.jpgMy monster eats bones.

20131031-082915.jpgMy monster eats people.

20131031-082922.jpgMy monster eats tires.

20131031-082929.jpgMy monster is scary.

20131031-082939.jpgMy monster is scary.

Happy Halloween!


Filed under iPads, Literacy, math literacy, Mentor Text, Read Alouds, Technology, Uncategorized

Teach Me Seymour!



I sat in professional development today – county mandated professional development – to “learn” how to “use” our newly adopted math series.  We’ve all been there… in a cold room listening to a publishing rep tell you all about the great new series your system has adopted.  It is a “one size fits all” type of thing — this one was not even personalized to my grade level.  As a learner, I was yearning to be taught something new and innovative to take back to my classroom.  Even if the presenter (bless her heart) was going to tell me something of value – I probably wouldn’t have known because I checked out within the first thirty minutes.

This frustration led me to think of my little ones starting school with me next week… How do I keep them from doing the same thing? How do I keep them engaged and prevent them from checking out?

I can only hope that my efforts to give them voice/choice/ownership in our classroom pay off.  I can only hope that our building of a strong community of learners will keep them invested.  How can I do this successfully?  Here is what I’m thinking…



I have never really liked the idea that students are sponges – just soaking up everything we teach and tell them.  Where is their role in that?  I prefer to think of them as gatherers… gathering ideas into their buckets (brains) to formulate their own learning.  My vision is that I create opportunities for my students to fill their “literacy buckets” while in kindergarten.

bucketsWe need to gather things to help us with all of our literacies.

Math – numeracy, methods/procedures/patterns, spatial awareness, application/connections
Science – environment, responsibility, exploration, experimentation
Reading – visual, informational, functional
Social Studies – global, connections between people and nations, roles in society
Play/Social – cultural, manners, relationships
Digital/Media – iPads, internet, digital citizenship

Whew!  That’s a lot!  Teach me!



Filed under Literacy, math literacy, Technology

Tutor Time 2


For a lot of students, and many adults, one subject comes more easily to you than another.  You’re either a “math person” or a “reading person”.  I would be the first to raise my hand as a member of the “reading person” group, but as a teacher, I’ve come to view myself more and more in a mathematical perspective.  We want our students to see themselves as capable of anything – they are writers, readers, scientists, explorers, artists, athletes, and yes – mathematicians.

In my very first blog post, I wrote about all the different types of literacy.  In schools today, so much emphasis is placed on reading and math.  Being mathematically literate is just as complex as being functionally literate and able to read.  There are several components.  Below is a graphic from  This website is an awesome resource for teachers and parents alike.


In Kindergarten, we fortify the foundation for mathematical literacy.  Our students come in with a sense of what numbers are and the meaning numbers have in their lives.  Every brick we add to this foundation is hopefully equipping our students to be mathematicians in upper grades.

During my tutoring sessions this summer, we have been working a lot with numeracy and quantitative literacy.  We are focusing on the order of numbers and how we can change a number by adjusting the value we give that number.  The numeral nine can have multiple meanings, depending on the value you give it.  Is it 9, 90, or 900?  As a former teacher of upper grades, many of my struggling students lacked a true understanding of the value of numbers.  When a student does not have a strong foundational understanding of number sense and place value, this can cause issues with more difficult math later on – multiplying, dividing, fractions.  Number sense is key.

As always, I use several different methods during one hour long tutor session.  We use games, handouts, the iPad, etc.  Again – varying the approach makes tutoring more fun and insures the student will hear the same concept multiple times (without getting bored).

20130709-154329.jpg The app Pocket Charts Pro is pretty amazing.  It incorporates both reading and math into one app.  There are 20 different “pocket charts” for the students to choose from.  In this picture, the student is using the Counting 1-20 pocket chart.  As you can see, a star is awarded when the student matches correctly.  When a student uses guessing as a strategy (crutch), they can just keep putting numbers up until they get the star.  While working with this student, I am reminding her that guessing is actually taking her more time (for the most part) than if she just counted as matched appropriately.  This is another reason why I use different methods and modes of learning during tutoring – I’m trying to weed out the strategies that are more crutches than actual strategies.  Can guessing be beneficial at times? Of course!  But in this case, I need to SEE that she understands the value of the numbers and can match using 1:1 correspondence.

20130709-154310.jpg We are also reviewing counting by 1’s, 5’s, and 10’s.  We chant, write, and match.  We fill in missing numbers in grids and on number lines.  We place cards in order as shown in this picture.  Skip counting can come across as a very “rote” activity.  However, it lays the foundation for a great strategy students can use when adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.  The ability to manipulate a number grid/line adds to the numeracy aspect of mathematical literacy.

20130709-154247.jpg My school is fortunate enough to have 1:1 iPads in each and every classroom.  However, I understand the importance of still being able to put pencil to paper.  A student may transfer to another school where iPads are not readily available.  Again this is a case of multiple deliveries and methods – showing literacy in a variety of ways. Here, the student is connecting the dots through skip counting.  She then fills in missing numbers – before and after.  We follow up by playing hopscotch outside with numbers (similar to the sight word hopscotch) and guess my number.

One of my favorite things to do – and the students seemed to enjoy as well – was telling number stories.  I would tell a number story using the students’ names.  They would use mental math or their fingers to solve.  We would “erase our hands” (shake them out) after each story.

Also – just because I love incorporating books into every subject area – here is a link to one of my favorite informational authors – Loreen Leedy!

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Mathematically literate… Say what?

Ready for a mouthful? According to JGR Martinez, this describes a 21st century learner of mathematics:

“Students need to learn to use language to focus and work through problems to communicate ideas coherently and clearly, to structure arguments, to extend their thinking, to understand their own thinking processes as well as others, and to develop flexibility in representing and interpreting ideas.” (2001)

As teachers of 21st century learners, and of the Common Core, we are responsible for preparing our children to be mathematically literate. It goes beyond learning the algorithms and naming numbers, beyond identifying colors and filling in formulas, beyond building shapes and patterns. Being mathematically literate means understanding the processes, understanding the vocabulary, and having a conversation about math in the world. I believe mathematical literacy extends beyond just numeric literacy.

In kindergarten, what this means to me, is that I need to introduce math vocabulary early. Even the words that seem too difficult for them to grasp. Although we are laying the foundation in the simplest of terms, it is never to early to start introducing “big kid” words for them to learn. We transition to higher level vocabulary through out the year in language arts and reading seamlessly. And math is no different.

This week, we are reviewing 3D shapes. For some students, this can be confusing because 3D shapes may look just like 2D shapes to them. We began with a poem I grabbed from the blog Lil’ Country Kindergarten. This is a great introduction because it already gets them thinking about 3D shapes being “fat” not “flat”. Then we moved on to the “big kid” word of dimension. I held up two shapes blocks, one 2D and one 3D. We discussed the shapes and how they are similar or different.

You gotta love those kids who just see into your mind and know just what you want to hear.

“Well, to me, one looks like a box. You can put things in a box but not in a plain old rectangle.” Ding Ding Ding!

We then could move into talking about dimensions meaning describing how long, wide, or deep something is. 2D shapes only have 2 dimensions – long and wide. 3D shapes have 3 dimensions – long, wide, and deep.

Our lessons continued throughout the week. I included Tana Hoban’s Cones, Cubes, Cylinders, and Spheres.


Bringing literature into math helps the students make connections across subject areas. We are expected to be able to read and write: during reading, during writing, and even during math (and science and social studies). Her book is great because it is wordless nonfiction showing real world examples of these shapes. Students can make connections between what we are talking about and their everyday lives. They then can translate the mathematical vocabulary elsewhere. Can we say literate? 🙂

I realize now that this post may sound like I’ve stepped on a soap box. But I am passionate about literacy and how it should transcend every subject area. Using literature in every subject can help create literate learners (of every subject matter).

Here are some great resources for math literacy:
Shape poem:

Building math literacy in kindergarten (fun games):

From the Mathematical Association of America:

Journal of Mathematics Education: 8.Bobby_Ojose_–_Mathematics_Literacy_Are_We_Able_To_Put_The_Mathematics_We_Learn_Into_Everyday_Use-1

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Filed under Literacy, math literacy